Finney – A Lesson From History

When we sanitize the long and sorted history of God’s people by filtering it through our personal traditions, we miss out on a greater appreciation for the saying, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

On to the subject matter…

Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as something owed. But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

Even as David also pronounces blessing on the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whom the Lord will by no means charge with sin.”

Is this blessing then pronounced on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it counted? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision?

Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they might be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might also be accounted to them.

Romans 4:4-11 (WEB)

Now consider this quote:

“There can be NO justification in a legal or forensic sense, but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterrupted obedience to law. This is of course denied by those who hold that gospel justification, or the justification of penitent sinners, is of the nature of a forensic or judicial justification. They hold to the legal maxim, that what a man does by another he does by himself, and therefore the law regards Christ’s obedience as ours, on the ground that He obeyed for us.”
– Charles G. Finney, Systematic Theology, 362

Why not instead say that faith without works is dead, as say the scriptures? The claim of justification without any sanctification is self-deception; but this does not permit us to throw out the former because we do not see enough of the latter. They are both part-and-parcel of the grace of God in salvation. This conflation of the two leads to a denial of what both are. For there is judicial righteousness, and there is experiential righteousness – and the two are not at odds (except in the minds of some). They are both present in true salvation, yet they are distinct in function; for the one is the begining and underpinning of the other. It is not without purpose that the apostle Paul frequently structured his letters according to this principle. Peter then shakes awake our sleepy hearts from interpreting Paul carnally, and puts in us the fear of God, convicting us of God’s holiness; and James with John clarify the synthesis: that the righteous will practice what has been given to them, and the rest are evidently not of His sheep.

It is not a question of too much or too little grace; it is a question of authentic grace. It is not a question of to much or too little law; it is a question of authentic law. Now the authentic article of faith is the divine law being written upon the heart of a man by the finger of God, and it is the giving of empowerment to obey such by the indwelling Holy Spirit – and this is all of grace. For no man has this inherently: he must be granted it from heaven. To deny this justification by faith in order to begin sanctification is to remove a foundation before building a house.

Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is GOD who justifies.
Romans 8:33 (WEB)

To set out upon a sanctified walk without being justified by faith is to set out across a bridge with no beams supporting it. It is doomed to fail, for it has no basis. It has no preexsisting grace by which to affirm that the way is sure and the goal attainable; and it has no ever-present grace to remind us that even what we have attained is all by God’s mighty power.

The man Finney often preached well against the tyranny of the self; but at times offered little more than the pitiful power of the fallen human will as its antidote – which only can perpetuate the cycle of said tyranny. (Rom 7). It is a sad truth that a great wealth of spiritual excitement and conviction can dwell alongside a ghastly lack of staying power.

Now this may be objected to by those who are aware of Finney’s teachings on the Holy Spirit, which are numerous and in many aspects quite excellent. But the Holy Spirit, were He bound by the choices of the human will or limited to man’s “uninterrupted obedience to law,” would have no power to sanctify us. For the will of man is the very first and primary matter that the Spirit comes to set right in us. For the law of God is not written on our hearts until the Lawgiver by the Spirit does so; and if He cannot do so without a sinner’s permission, then it will most assuredly never happen. But if we accept such teaching, we are left quite to ourselves, and we deny much of God’s help, however unwittingly.

For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God; for it is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed can it be. Those who are in the flesh can’t please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Romans 8:6-9 (WEB)

And how is the Holy Spirit obtained?

I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive; for it doesn’t see Him, neither knows Him. You know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in you.
John 14:16-17 (WEB)

The more true obedience to His maker that a man walks in, the more he ought to behold the gracious preordination of God in every step along the way, and all the more quickly should he therefore yield himself unto the doing of that same will of God. But the man who becomes proud of his own obedience sees it only as the doing of his own will, and mocks the grace of the God who had soveriegnly worked it all in him. This man takes little delight in being humbled; and rather than simply surrendering to the will God, he constantly makes treaties with his Creator, thinking it to be the Lord’s method. Man’s desire to “be like the most high” of his own accord and by his own means is insatiable; and it must be crushed by the overbearing power of the Spirit of Grace, who is the mouth of the fount of true sanctification.

Do I hereby condemn Charles Finney? No! Based on many other things he said, I actually believe that he himself had a real and powerful walk with God. For by God’s grace, many who are attracted to vain philosophy may yet be constrained by His power to truly know and walk with Him despite their most carnal notions; and they are herein most blessedly inconsistent. Finney also lived in a day of great spiritual slumber – and despite the shear reactionism behind such of his teachings as those here quoted, he was apparently not without a good measure of real fruit. I dare any one of us to presume that we were the better man for that hour. God knew what He was doing.

The legacy of those things which we call the movings of Christ throughout the ages is one often beset with the mixture of man’s disasterous religious recipes and earthly philosophy.

O Lord, give us eyes to see that which is pure, holy, and becoming of You; that we may test all things, and hold fast to what is good!

Scripture & Thought – Obedience & The Self

There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and of death. For the law being powerless, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous demand of the law might be fulfilled in us, those not walking according to flesh, but according to Spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 (LITV)

A man cannot overemphasize his total inability to please God in and of himself; but there are those who struggle to obey God because they overshadow the cross of Christ with the ruinous heap of their recurring sins. This in itself is actually a fleshly self-centeredness, it is a faithless sin to be repented of in view of God’s mercy. For if one fears and delights in the Lord, including the sufficiency of His work and a trusting in His desire to continue it, then that same one delights in nothing less than the glory of God’s Name; and to obey the Lord then becomes a joy despite one’s existing shortcomings.

Only by this does one draw near to God in such a way that his personal faults and long-entrenched sins can be overcome in the Lord’s ever-nearer presence; for this honors the Holy Spirit and invites His power. But when our obedience is about ourselves, and not all about the Lord of Glory, then it is not true obedience anyways, and will ironically benefit us nothing. The Lord calls us not to the limit of our means, but far beyond, where we have no means but He Himself. The fruit of the Spirit is not invoked by the striving of the flesh.

For the ones that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh. And the ones according to Spirit mind the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God; for it is not subject to the law of God, for neither can it be. And those being in the flesh are not able to please God. But you are not in flesh, but in Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, this one is not His.
Romans 8:5-9 (LITV)

True Value – Some Thoughts

It is quite grievous to me when some well-meaning person tries to propogate the myth of my intrinsic value before God.

I do not trust the soul which so unduly esteems any man, including myself. For that soul cannot be rightly esteeming Christ, in whom are hidden and revealed the unsearcheable riches of the glory of God. They know not what holy rage and jealousy they provoke in the One by Whom all things consist.

I have no intrinsic value, only Christ does; and that is why I cling to Him, and to no other. But when I did not cling to Him, how devoid was my soul of His eternal joy; and how sumptuously did the fool’s gold glimmer in the false light! Then He Himself lit my darkness when I had not asked, and the gold was all revealed to be dross, and my own life was revealed to be the death of me.

All that I possess of any value to Him is actually His, it never was mine. The only honor I can give to Him is the honor which He has graciously bestowed upon me; and this I shall do, also by His grace. For of myself, I am altogether worthless; and He alone is worthy of my utmost devotion – even were I yet a son of hell.

If we truly value Christ, we cannot but speak of Him if we are to speak of true value. If a thing is not in Him, it is fuel for the fire. Those who have His joy within them know this truth vividly. They find the present world to be a weary abode, a miserable labrynth of fickle trivialities; and they find themselves to be as strangers in it. For the same Priceless Treasure which bought them, although they were worthless, has Himself become their true abode.

Quote – Charles H. Spurgeon

“And then He turned my heart, and made me love Him.”
– Charles H. Spurgeon

The Command Which Tries The Hearts

Truly then, God overlooking the times of ignorance, now strictly commands all men everywhere to repent, because He set a day in which He is going to judge the habitable world in righteousness, by a Man whom He appointed; having given proof to all by raising Him from the dead.
Acts 17:30-31

The gospel is proclaimed as much for judgement as it is for salvation. It is the seed of the Sower which reveals the existing nature of the ground upon which it falls. We have not paid careful attention to what Jesus said immediately after explaining the parable of the sower…

But no one lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it underneath a couch, but sets it on a lampstand, that those coming in may see the light. For nothing is hidden which will not be revealed, nor secret which will not be known and come to be revealed. Then observe how you hear; for whoever has, it will be given to him; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.
Luke 8:16-18

The same Word of God which He first described as a seed, He now describes as a light that reveals the true substance of whatever it touches. Those “coming in” to the kingdom see the light of this gospel, and they come in because they are drawn of the Father (Jn 6:44). But the rest do not see its true light, even though it shines upon them, and even though some of them might walk amidst the children of light. Likewise, the seed of the Sower commands all; but not all have ears to hear, for to them it has not been given, and these (being many) are judged according to it.

And he said to him, “If they will not hear Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one from the dead should rise.”
Luke 16:31

We like to suppose that the ground can be changed by the seed, if only the ground does the right thing with the seed. But in truth, the ground will be judged according to what the seed does with the ground, and it does not abide bad ground. “For nothing is hidden which will not be revealed.” We also miss the purpose of the warnings given to every ear, such as, “be careful how you hear,” or the reason for exhortations to seek God with all of the heart. For the warnings against falling away and the exhortations to seek the Lord are all serving to suggest that hard ground can deceive itself into thinking that it is good soil. For “whoever does not have, even what he SEEMS to have will be taken from him.” Time will tell the truth of mens’ hearts, and the Day will bring all to light.

Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith, prove yourselves. Or do you not yourselves perceive that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are reprobates? And I hope you will know that we are not reprobates.
2 Corinthians 13:5-6

For who determines the nature of the soils? If it were up to the choice of man, then no soil would ever become good. For in Adam, “there is not one doing good, there is not one seeking after God.” But it takes a hearing ear to seek after God; and it is His alone to give to whomever He wills.

Therefore,

Everyone believing (Grk: present & ongoing faith: used consistently by John to describe authentic fruitful faith, not a whimsical belief, nor even potential faith) that Jesus is the Christ, HAS been generated from God…
1 John 5:1

Faith that endures to the end is the result of true regeneration, not the other way around.

So then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy. And to whom He desires, He hardens. You will then say to me, “Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?”
Bu rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the One forming it, “Why did You make me like this?” Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor? What if God, desiring to show forth wrath, and to make His power known, endured in much long-suffering vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction, so that He make known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He before pepared for glory?
Romans 9:18-23

God deals justly with all, and to some of them He gives mercy by dealing justly with their sin in the death of Christ. For this very reason we proclaim with great confidence the command of the Gospel: because He has a particular people whom He is calling each by name; and His command will bring them in, while at the same time it will judge the ones who do not obey, as is their nature.

For He came to gather the lost sheep of His own house; but unto the rest He says, “You will not believe, because you are not of my sheep.” His sheep hear His voice, He knows them, and they follow Him; but to the self-deceivers He says again, “I never knew you.” They are judged righteously according to the willful rebellion of their hearts; because self-will is the only will of those not generated from God, and they love their own will.

Where the will of men is given the throne by its being pleaded with rather than its being commanded, the gospel being preached is no longer the power of God – not that there is another gospel.

There is a great hatred in the body of Christ today for this truth of God’s sovereignty, just as it has always been drifted away from shortly after its light was revived. I have at times been guilty of questioning it myself, but have very recently been graciously dragged back to it by the Lord. He made this matter clear at first, and I reseisted it for a time; but now the clarity of His Word regarding these things is stunning, and I can take no credit for it. Truly His gospel is the command which tries the hearts! If I ever had anything to do with God’s mercy being bestowed upon me, then He is no God.

“The gospel is a command, not a suggestion.”
– James R. White

Quote – Paul Washer

The question (concerning fallen man) is not, “Is there free will?” The question is, “Is there good will?”
– Paul Washer

As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.
Romans 3:10-12